Women writers, artists, composers bond together

Members of the Cape Canaveral branch of the National League of American Pen Women enjoy a robust series of meetings.

Creating art can be a lonely occupation, but not for the 24 members of the Cape Canaveral branch of the National League of American Pen Women.

The local chapter is part of a storied national organization that attracts more than 1,600 members in 81 branches across 35 states.

“We help you network with fellow artists and expand your horizons,” said Donna Puglisi, co-president of the local branch.

Founded in 1897 and the oldest women’s arts organization in the nation, the National League of American Pen Women came to life after poet William Wadsworth Longfellow’s niece, journalist Marian Longfellow O’Donoghue, invited fellow female writers to join forces in mutual support that would also combat the unfairness the “fair sex” encountered in the writers’ workplace. The group later expanded to encompass the visual arts and music.

Local artist and author Dr. Elaine Murray Stone founded the Cape Canaveral branch in 1969. The organization is open to published authors, composers of original music and visual artists who have exhibited in at least three juried shows. Beyond the encouragement and insight to help members achieve success, the group offers the opportunity for fellowship.

“We evolve and recreate ourselves through lifelong friendships,” Puglisi said.

Despite the pandemic, Pen Women have been able to maintain community outreach projects such as free author talks and workshops at One Senior Place. A traveling exhibition of Pen Women’s work will debut at Suntree/Viera Public Library in May, and subsequently visit Merritt Island, Cocoa Beach and Melbourne libraries.

The organization also sponsors an annual scholarship for Brevard County high school girls who plan to pursue a career in art, music or letters.

Members are a diverse bunch. Scuba instructor Cheryl Shepherd Bartoszek, for example, is both an underwater photographer and a published author of marine fiction. Fellow member Anne Bonner used Florida as a backdrop for five historical fiction books for young adults and also writes Florida-based historical love stories for adults.

Born and raised in Paris, Pen Woman Anne-Marie Derouault has a doctorate degree in mathematics, is a registered teacher with the USA Yoga Alliance and writes free verse poetry in English and French.

Give and take between members is, as the credit card ad once put it, priceless.

To join the Cape Canaveral Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, email info@canaveralpenwomen.org.